Uncommon Sense

November 28, 2012

Why the GOP is Purging Moderates

On Rachel Maddow’s show last night former Florida Governor Charlie Crist expressed confusion over why the GOP is purging moderates, like himself, from the party.

I am shocked that he doesn’t realize why this is so. I picked up a fact that pretty much tells the tale: “The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five times the $300 billion total in 1992.” So, in 20 years, the wealth amassed by the roughly 400 wealthiest Americans quintupled, while the remaining 300,000,000 million of us are struggling dealing with the effects of the worse recession since the Great Depression, most of whom saw their accumulated wealth go down.

The rich in this country are now overwhelmingly corporate CEOs, people trained to create profit, at least for themselves, at all costs. These same people believe that it is their own sterling qualities that got them to the “top” of American society. They believe that their wealth means something, primarily that they are superior to others who couldn’t do what they have done. Mr. Mitt Romney is the perfect example.

Mr. Romney insisted in the recent political campaign that he was a self-made man, that he had earned his wealth, all of it. He apparently didn’t think that the posh education his family’s wealth afforded him was a boost up. He apparently didn’t think his father’s business contacts were a boost up. Nor did he think his father staking him a million dollars to go into business was a leg up. He did it all by himself.

The purging of the Republican Party of moderates stems from a confluence of a number of things. Shortly after the Obama election in 2008, if you will recall, the number of people willing to tell pollsters they identified themselves as Republicans was around 20%. It was actually more than that but part of the GOP was so mad at the party for letting someone of Mr. Obama’s ilk win that they were disgusted by it. But when the party was stripped down to its core like that, the hard core base of the GOP woke up and realized that they were then a majority of the GOP . . . finally they would be more than just pandered to. Which is when the corporate money struck. Corporate money fueled the birth of the Tea Party. The Tea Party was the lever corporate money could use to dominate the Republican Party and it was done.

The conservative Think Tanks didn’t see this coming, even though they had laid the groundwork for it. The Law of Unintended Consequences caught up to them. And The Citizens United Supreme Court decision sealed the deal and corporatist’s money became the tail wagging the dog.

The conservative Think Tanks no longer drive the Republican agenda. The GOP no longer drives the Republican agenda. The Koch brothers and their ilk do and their temperament is much like Mr. Romney’s. Of course, the Koch brothers inherited vast resources and then took advantage of circumstances to multiply what they inherited, but their attitude is like Romney’s and the other corporatists, staunchly and extremely libertarian.

The moderates in the GOP had to go because they weren’t like the new Masters of the GOP. And the levers of power were easily bought. Have you noticed how many politicians received primary challenges, challenges that didn’t occur in the past because they couldn’t raise enough money to sustain a viable campaign. The people controlling the purse strings wouldn’t back a loser. All of a sudden, these nonviable candidates had money and incumbents started to fall. The message was clear, if you weren’t conservative enough, you would be replaced. So politicians either morphed themselves into new more conservative forms or they were replaced. And from whom did they take their cues? From the hard core base and the corporatists with the money.

So, the GOP isn’t purging moderates, the purge is from the outside and the GOP is being reshaped by forces beyond its control.

November 26, 2012

Marco Rubio and Creationists Can Relax

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
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Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was recently caught in an interview by a question about the age of the Earth and instead of responding with the “a bit over 4 billion years” that there is a scientific consensus for, he mumbled something about there being a “theological debate.” Most people are describing this as an example of his pandering to a conservative base who believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

If you ask any of those “young Earth” Creationists, so-named because they believe in the Biblical story of creation of the planet and, well, the Universe, why they think the Earth id just a few thousand years old, they say it is a matter of their Christian faith.

Since the Christian faith is based solely on their Bible, I decided to check and, in fact, nowhere in the Bible does it say how old the Earth is. Some people, a little more in the thrall of the Creationists, can quote Bishop Usser’s estimate that the Earth was created in 4004 BC, specifically on the nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC, which means I and the planet share a birthday. It is curious that the worthy stated such a time, “nightfall” because “nightfall” is a condition that sweeps around the Earth once every 24 hours, so it occurs at different times in different places, but I digress.

The esteemed Bishop used certain assumptions about how long people lived and counted the generations which, with a little math, resulted in his estimate. But what most don’t know is that a great many other people did the same thing and came up with similar estimates of Earth’s birth date from roughly 3600 BC to 7000 BC. A few more modern folk, embarrassed about the difference between those dates and the date that geophysicists have come up with, namely ca. 4,300,000,000 BC have managed to stretch the birth date as far back as 20,000 BC.

Apparently, the people who believe the Bible and believe these “estimates,” also apparently believe the interpretations of people who lived hundreds of years ago and who had no knowledge of modern science. This is hard to believe especially for Evangelicals as they insist that they need no intermediaries to interpret the Bible. Some go so far to say that people who claim such positions are automatically deceivers.

For the rest of believers, there must be some doubt about the methods of people who take the same information and come up with “calculations” whose results differ by huge amounts. If the data is divinely inspired, should not the results come out the same for everyone? The fact that they do not indicates that the results of those calculations are merely the dreams of pointy-headed intellectuals.

So, if you base your faith on what the Bible actual says, you can rest easy. There is no dispute between the Bible and reality. And Marco Rubio can put away his dancing shoes.

November 21, 2012

Republicans Launch Campaign Against White People

Brazenly ignoring the advice of Senator Lindsay Graham (“if you are in a hole, stop digging”) the Republican Party is doubling down in its effort to cleanse the party of pantywaists and ribbon clerks.

In the election, the Republicans did well only amongst white people. In every other category (Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, the young, and women in particular, along with the New Black Panthers and fraudulent voters) they got spanked.

In an effort to cleanse the party of everyone but the staunchest white voters, the Republicans have doubled down on their need to curb Social Security and Medicare, eliminate them if possible. Both of these programs are popular with “takers” and if you were to characterize the average recipient of the government’s largess, it would be as an old white woman. The vast majority of the recipients of these services are white, possibly because most minorities don’t live long enough to collect much from them (another reason to curse Obamacare!).

In this manner the Republicans hope to get down to a rock solid base of mostly white, mostly male party members from which to base future election bids.

We wish them well with that!

And if that doesn’t work, they might want to try to ask the American public what they are willing to spend for those services. You know, suggest a way of paying for them and then, like, ask people if it is worth that. Just a suggestion.

Redistribution of Wealth, My Ass (con’t)!

One of the right-wing bloviators talking points is that Democrats are in favor of . . . sneer, sneer . . . redistribution of wealth. Meaning that people who work are taxed to give money to people who don’t (freeloaders and scofflaws) . . . sneer. Apparently this is part of their “kick them while they are down persona,” I mean what good are the unemployed anyway?

If you want to talk about redistribution of wealth, how about talking about how conservatives over the past 40 years have redistributed incredible wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor, including the reduction of the top income tax rate from 50 percent in 1986 to 35 percent; the lowering of the capital gains tax to 15 percent which was 39.9 percent in 1977; the lowering of the top estate tax rate from 70 percent in 1981, with just $175,000 exempted from taxation, to a top rate of 35 percent this year with $5.1 million exempted from taxation. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have mentioned before that in 1950, for every $1 paid by individuals in federal taxes, corporations paid $3, but now for every $1 individuals pay the corporations pay a small fraction of a dollar. (Brother can you spare a dime; I gotta pay my corporate taxes?)

Republicans and conservatives may sneer at “redistribution of wealth” but they believe in it big time. It is just a matter of who the beneficiaries are.

What is Wrong with Helping Others?

I was watching Ken Burn’s outstanding documentary “The Dust Bowl” last night and more than a few things struck me. Mr. Burns looks at the world through the lenses of ordinary people and one of these, who was a child during the years of the Dust Bowl, remembers a rich person saying that President Roosevelt was a Socialist . . . and Anti-American . . . and needed to be stopped. She also said that if you had asked any of the poor people, they were absolutely grateful to Roosevelt for helping them.

Sound familiar?

The second thing that struck me was one of the ways Roosevelt “helped” was to deploy WPA manpower. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) took taxpayer money and used it to hire people to do jobs the public needed doing and there was a great deal that needed doing in the Dust Bowl. One comment made by one of Mr. Burn’s voices was that the WPA jobs weren’t a handout, in fact they could have fed and clothed those people for less than they were paying them to do that work, but the personal cost to the people would have been tremendous. They didn’t want “relief” or charity, they wanted to work and to preserve their families and their dignity. So they built roads, planted trees as windbreaks (an astonishing number of them!), and built schools and other public buildings.

In addition, the federal government bought up millions of acres of land and reverted it to grass covered prairie and when another dry spell came back in the early 1950’s, the dust storms were far less severe because of that (and more modern farming techniques, promoted by . . . wait for it . . . the federal government).

The WPA was responsible for creating 650,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges (one shows up in the documentary), 125,000 civilian and military buildings, 800 airports (new or enlarged or improved) plus a great deal more nationally. Some mammoth works were done: The River Walk in San Antonio, Aquatic Park in San Francisco, and LaGuardia Airport in New York. After the war many of these became derelict but most were restored later and enhanced to become treasured venues.

The WPA and indeed the whole “New Deal” has been in conservative cross hairs since their inception.

But what is wrong with hiring people to do work that private enterprise won’t or can’t do. Isn’t this in the public interest? Doesn’t this make life better for everyone? Doesn’t this preserve the dignity of the people who are hard pressed by economic times or by nature?

Couldn’t we use a little of that now?

November 20, 2012

Why the Angst, Conservatives?

In a recent column (Conservatives, Don’t Despair—11-13-12) David Frum noted:

. . . Compare the United States of 2012 with the United States of 1962. Leave aside the obvious points about segregation and discrimination, and look only at the economy.

In 1962, the government regulated the price and route of every airplane, every freight train, every truck and every merchant ship in the United States. The government regulated the price of natural gas. It regulated the interest on every checking account and the commission on every purchase or sale of stock. Owning a gold bar was a serious crime that could be prosecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The top rate of income tax was 91%.

It was illegal to own a telephone. Phones had to be rented from the giant government-regulated monopoly that controlled all telecommunications in the United States. All young men were subject to the military draft and could escape only if they entered a government-approved graduate course of study.

Even if you look only at the experiences of white heterosexual men, the United States of 2012 is a freer country in almost every way than the United States of 1962. . . .

His point was that the U.S. is freer than ever before, so there is no reason to decry any “loss of freedom,” a constant drumbeat of the right-wing media.

And he left out a few things.

Married women couldn’t get credit in their own name, for example. Ordinary people had the devil’s own time trying to buy stocks. And, his exclusions of segregation, racial discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, alternant lifestyle discrimination, etc, were far from trivial.

But, on the plus side there were usury laws that limited interest rates (People are still paying off credit cards that started with 30+% interest rates that never would have happened under the old laws). There were fairness laws limiting what you could say on the public airways, the elimination of which (bad regulation, bad!) resulted in the current sewers of information generally called “news channels.” And remember the Glass-Steagall Act (bad regulation, bad!) that caused all financial meltdowns to be mere hiccoughs instead of global catastrophes? Also, there were no real negative affects of the 91% marginal tax rate (this was the tax on income over $100,000 if I recall right and average income was about $6-7000). Most wealthy individuals then, as now, availed themselves of tax shelters to avoid paying that tax rate. And, I don’t see how owning gold became anything like a plus; sure you can do it, but why would you?

But, why the angst? Really. Why has there been so much angst over a moderate, centrist President? Yes, he is on the left side of center but not very far to the left. Conservatives are reacting so wildly: requiring people to purchase health insurance is a big gift to Obama’s base. Say what? Equal pay for women in the work place (the Lilly Ledbetter Act) is socialist! Not if you ask any woman in the workplace. Obama is trying to take our guns! If this is so, they could at least name one regulation or piece of legislation indicating that this is the case, and they can’t.

So why the angst?

November 18, 2012

The “Christian Nation” Power Play

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:44 am
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If you haven’t heard the claims by evangelicals that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian Nation,” you haven’t been paying attention.

This is a power play by the religious conservatives. Historically, evangelicals supported the Constitution being written without the word “God” in it. Several of the states tried to amend the Constitution to include the word “God,” even “Jesus Christ” and all of these were defeated, in most cases with evangelical support.

A lot of people who insist on their “Nth Amendment Rights” under the Constitution seem to not realize that the original framers of the Constitution (the Founding Fathers!) did not see fit to include those rights in the draft Constitution, nor were they in the Constitution as adopted and ratified. Religion’s protection from the government in the First Amendment (and vice-versa) was only added a few years after ratification.

Prior to the First Amendment being added to the Constitution, the only mention of religion was that there couldn’t be a religious test for elected federal offices, that’s it.

So why did evangelicals support the passage of the Constitution (and other separation of church and state legislation in the states)? It was because they were a small segment of the religious at the time. If the nation were to support a religion it would be one of the more powerful denominations and they would get frozen out, so they supported the “God-less” Constitution and the separation of church and state.

Realize that the Christians in late eighteenth century America were virtually all Protestants. Those Protestants brought their loathing of Catholicism with them from the Old World, but evangelicals were much fewer in number than establishment church members (Anglicans, Congregationalists, etc.). But now evangelicals are feeling their oats and/or they don’t know their own history and/or are suffering from limited intellectual horsepower (or most probably all three) and they have been proposing their Christain Nation claptrap, thinking they are now in line to benefit from that designation.

The argument then is the same as the argument now: if the state supports a particular religion and then there is a shift in popularity, that support can shift to another group and away from yours. While you are on the “outs” you could dwindle to obscurity. It has happened before.

But the evangelicals are feeling their oats, especially with their gains in outward religiosity during the Bush administration.

Apparently they don’t believe in their own doctrines. Their main doctrine is you don’t need an intermediary between you and God, the relationship is direct, hence priests (especially Catholic ones) aren’t needed. If those intermediaries aren’t needed, of what use is the government in that relationship?

There are over 23,000 sects of Christianity. If they can’t get along, how is government support going to change anything? Each of those sects believes the others are “wrong” to some degree. My list of those wrong is just one longer than theirs.

This is a flat out power play and should be seen as such. People who espouse that we are a “Christian Nation” are looking for power and I would guess that means over you and me.

November 16, 2012

I Don’ Need No Stinkin’ GOP!

While the debate over the election fallout rages on, a commonly expressed sentiment of many on the liberal side has been that they would like to see the Republicans get their act together as a “strong Republican Party is needed” in our two-party system. At first I merely nodded at this sage advice but as Republican perfidy seems to be almost unabated, I reconsidered.

Do we need a Republican Party . . . at all?

As currently manifested I would answer “no.” Here are my reasons:

1. Do we need the GOP as a source of good candidates for office? Based on the quality of the individuals recently put forward, that is a clear “no.”

2. Do we need the GOP as a source of good ideas? This is clearly a “no. G.W. Bush started his Presidency with rolling back arsenic standards in drinking water. Rolling back good regulations, good environmental standards, starting unnecessary wars, letting lobbyists write legislation, etc. are not good ideas. Reagan’s record was similar with “Supply Side Economics,” tax cuts for the rich, shifting the tax burdens off of corporations and onto individuals (mostly the middle class), etc.; the list of his bad ideas is quite long. The most recent bad idea is the Republican insistence that over $300 billion in tax cuts be included in the $782 billion 2009 stimulus package when virtually all economists have agreed that tax cuts are nowhere near as stimulative to the economy as, say, infrastructure expenditures or certainly food stamps are. The GOP’s Supreme Court appointments came up with the genius idea of “corporations are people for political purposes (without being asked the question, mind you) with more rights than you have” (Citizens United) and other bizarre opinions. I won’t even get into their “personhood” Constitutional Amendment and its ilk. The few good ideas contributed: “Cap and Trade” and “Romney Care” were repudiated when Democrats showed interest in passing them, so they were just cover.

3. What we really need is not opposition, but collaboration. We need ideas from left, right, and center to enter a mix to get things done. The Democratic Party has conservative, liberal, and moderate wings, so all of these voices will be heard. And, Democrats have demonstrated time and again that they will not just toe the party line and vote as requested. They, unlike the Republicans, retain some independence, so there is little fear of a runaway ruling party.

The GOP, I think can bloviate and filibuster its way into irrelevance and the dustbin of history for all they contribute to the political process.

November 13, 2012

And They Blame . . . the Candidate?

Once one has rejected reality in favor of a more comforting fantasy world, it is hard to come to one’s senses. When “Mitt Romney’s landslide” turned into quicksand, Republican pundits have been racing around grasping first one, then another, person or situation to blame for the difference between their world and the real world. Rush Limbaugh even went so far to say that he predicted that he would get the blame. (Rush still thinks it is all about him. The only thing bigger than Rush on his landscape is his ego.)

And there are plenty who point to Mitt Romney as a focus of their ire. He was the cause of the shocking loss, they say. Look at the popular vote—if they’d of had a true conservative, they would have won, they say. This is amazing to me. Ignoring the fact that the popular vote is irrelevant as claimed by the Republicans themselves (see the 2000 election in which their candidate won with fewer votes than his opponent), Romney lost 332-203 in the Electoral College, the only vote that counts, a crushing defeat. But to blame him, amazing. One pundit says that the were “blaming him for sinking after supplying him with cement overshoes.”

In the real world we know that the Republican Party, in recent memory, was able to elect as president a recovering alcoholic of mediocre caliber and intelligence . . . twice! . . . even though one heartbeat from the presidency was the modern equivalent of Dr. Strangelove, Dick Cheney, an electoral handicap if there ever was one. And these folks blame Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, two squeaky clean, smart enough candidates for the loss. WTF?

All I can say to these complainers is: look in the mirror; and you may find what you are looking for.

November 9, 2012

And the Winner is . . .

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 4:32 pm
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Obviously the President won big and the conservatives were losers.

The conservative blogosphere? Loser!

Poll naysayers? Losers.

The really big winner was . . . Big Bird. Yes, the Sesame Street Stalwart was the big winner.

Did Big Bird gloat? No.

Did Big Bird make any snarky comments? No

Did Big Bird even celebrate his big victory? No.

A class act, all the way.

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